In many ways, the summer of 2020 is starting to feel like the summer of 2000, when networks actually took a break for a few months, and we could catch up on reruns of shows we missed earlier in the year. This 2020 TV break wasn’t planned though, thanks to the pandemic causing production shutdowns, so what we’re left with over the next few months are a hodgepodge of new and retuning shows that really run the gamut in terms of subject and availability. The good news is, with fewer series on the docket, we should be able to give those that are premiering more of our Peak TV attention.
Below are the shows (and two new streaming platforms full of content!) that our Paste editors and TV writers are looking forward to the most. To be considered for our list, the premiere dates must fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Yes, summer!
Check out our Summer TV Guide below, in calendar order:
Premiere Date: May 27
If you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether I thought Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could somehow manage to be the last series standing in a Marvel TV universe that included heavy hitters like Daredevil and Legion, I probably would have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the little Marvel Show That Could, is still standing as the final survivor in what is essentially a dead world.
Marvel TV isn’t completely gone, of course. It’s just moved to Disney+, which will—by necessity of corporate synergy—focus on more on lighter, less riskier fare that more directly ties into its big budget films, like the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series. But we still get one last season with S.H.I.E.L.D. first, which promises to be as weird, risky and strangely emotionally satisfying as it always is.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that’s undergone more than a few reinventions over its seven season run. Though it started as a fairly straightforward show about the work of normal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in a world where superheroes exist, it’s evolved into something much stranger and more explicitly sci-fi in tone, incorporating elements of time travel, Westworld-style human robots, and an entire season in space. What twists we can expect in its final season, which will be set in 1930s New York (don’t ask if you haven’t kept up) and will feature an appearance by Agent Carter’s Enver Gjokaj, is anyone’s guess. But, if past is prologue it’s surely going to be a wild ride. —Lacy Baugher
Network: HBO Max
Premiere Date: May 27
Even if you, like me, think the obsessive bidding war around sitcoms like Friends is ridiculous, HBO Max is bringing a lot more to the table than your typical streaming launch. WarnerMedia just happens to own a lot of good stuff. At launch, the service will offer new shows like the rebooted Looney Tunes Cartoons and The Not Too Late Show With Elmo, alongside 20 new-to-streaming Studio Ghibli movies. If you (or your kids!) are getting antsy with the same ol’ batch of content, this roster could be a game-changer. Those looking to catch up on their TV homework will also be able to check out the entire runs of shows like The West Wing and finally dip into DC Universe’s excellent Doom Patrol. There are a ton of streamers competing for your attention and only more to come, but HBO Max’s library makes a compelling argument … especially if you’ve already got an HBO subscription as a lapsed Westworld or Game of Thrones fan.—Jacob Oller
Network: Apple TV+
Premiere Date: May 29
When Fox passed on a second animated series from Bob’s Burgers’ Lauren Bouchard, Apple TV+ came riding to the rescue. Central Park features an all-star cast as a family living and caring for Manhattan’s famous park, with parents played by Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn and kids by Kristen Bell and Tituss Burgess. Daveed Diggs reunites with his Hamilton castmate Odom, and Josh Gad and Stanley Tucci round out the series regulars. Bouchard, who also co-created the cult classic Home Movies with Brendan Small, has been consistent in blending wit and more pathos for his characters than the typical Fox animation, and there’s no reason to think the new show will fall short of that winning combination. —Josh Jackson
Premiere Date: May 31
The once ubiquitous Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has since spawned two great stories about its heyday: the film Slumdog Millionaire, and now, AMC’s Quiz. The latter chronicles the true-life tale of a UK couple accused of cheating their way to the million pound prize in 2001, and who were actually put on trial for what turned out to be a sprawling conspiracy around this (at the time) brand-new competition format. Starring an exceptional cast—Matthew Macfadyen, Sian Clifford, Michael Sheen, Mark Bonnar, Aisling Bea, Helen McCrory—the Stephen Frears-directed miniseries (running a quick three episodes) is set to potentially be one of the year’s best. There’s no heist like a nerd heist. — Allison Keene
Premiere Date: June 2
Back in the 80s and 90s made-for-TV movies were a thing and Meredith Baxter as the unhinged ex-wife in A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is forever etched into my memory. Unceremoniously dumped for a much younger version after 17 years of marriage and four children, Broderick killed her ex-husband and his new wife. The true story was a tabloid sensation and my impressionable young mind was shook. But the movie, and its subsequent sequel, were so clearly on the side of Dan Broderick. Betty was crazy, violent, irrational. Dan was just trying to move on with his life. It wasn’t until I became an adult and a mom myself that I began to think of the story differently. Enter the second season of Dirty John; as the series moves to USA from Bravo, it seems intent on telling a much more balanced story (and this time stars Amanda Peet as Betty). I mean the title Dirty John gives you an idea of which way the show is leaning. Me thinks Dan Broderick, played by Christian Slater, isn’t going to be as much of the victim this time around. Creator and executive producer Alexandra Cunningham assembled an all-female directing team, and together I expect a more nuanced and compassionate approach to Broderick’s story.—Amy Amatangelo
Premiere Date: June 19
Originally slated as a series for Disney+ before moving to Hulu, Love,Victor follows the titular character (played by Michael Cimino) as he moves to a new town and starts at a new high school about a year after the 2018 movie Love, Simon ends. The movie was a delight, and one of the first films to give adolescent gay romance the same teen rom com treatment as its heterosexual peers. It was groundbreaking by just being a typical teen movie. Rachel Hilson, who plays young Beth on This is Us, co-stars as Victor’s friend Mia, and Nick Robinson, who played Simon in the movie, is back as the narrator for the series. Struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation, Simon will also serve as a bit of a mentor to Victor. Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, the original writers of the movie, are executive producers, ensuring that this 10-episode series will remain true to the spirit of the movie while forging ahead with a whole new story.—Amy Amatangelo
Premiere Date: June 21
For a show about supernatural horror that takes place in Christmasland where it’s always winter, NOS4A2 turned into a surprisingly tender story about parenthood, and the sacrifices some parents make to protect their children. Ashleigh Cummings’ performance as Vic McQueen grounds the show, which sometimes needs grounding when its fantastical elements veer into melodrama—though the melodrama can be fun to watch. The second season takes place eight years after the first, after Vic becomes a mother herself. Vic gained depth over the first season, and her experience as a mother will show another side of her on her quest to end seemingly immortal villain Charlie Manx’s (Zachary Quinto) string of kidnappings and torture. Sometimes in the long summer days, an icy treat that’s easy to watch and not too sweet just hits the spot. —Rae Nudson
Premiere Date: June 21
Coming from executive producers that include Robert Downey Jr., Weeds alums Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald, and TV directing god Tim Van Patten, is the new Perry Mason—a miniseries about a time when men regularly wore fedoras, women slinked into bars, gin joints were popping, and police were openly corrupt. Our former second-favorite KGB spy/travel agent, Matthew Rhys, stars as the titular criminal defense attorney who is now determined to find out the truth behind a child kidnapping gone awry in 1930s-era Los Angeles. Tatiana Maslany, John Lithgow, Shea Whigham, Juliet Rylance and Homeland’s Chris Chalk also star in this prestige drama that could very well be the talk of all of your Zoom cocktail parties this summer. —Whitney Friedlander
Premiere Date: June 28
Michelle McNamara’s meticulously researched and critically acclaimed true crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is getting the HBO treatment in this slick-looking documentary, which recounts her tireless work into identifying a serial murderer and rapist who stalked California in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The six part series purports to not only recount the killer and his crimes, but to give a voice to the victims and families involved. McNamara herself passed away before the book was published, but her work prior to her death was massive, encompassing some 3,500 documents detailing clues, crimes, and suspects. The documentary will purportedly address (respectfully, I hope) the ways in which this story also took over McNamara’s life in her final years. But at least all her hard work ultimately paid off in the end, even though she sadly did not live to see it. In August of 2018, authorities arrested a man named Jospeh DeAngelo and charged him with 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of kidnapping. His case is still awaiting trial, but this look into the world of true crime is a timely reminder of how resurrected cold cases can indeed be solved by the work of those who are still willing to search for the truth. —Lacy Baugher
Premieres: July 3
I would have been excited for Netflix’s updated take on the classic ‘90s middle grade series, The Baby-Sitters Club, regardless. But having already seen two out of three episodes provided to critics for review (the third of which I am intentionally saving to watch on a particularly glum quarantine day, ~as a treat), I can attest to the fact that, on every level, showrunner Rachel Shukert (GLOW) and EP/director Lucia Aniello (Broad City) have perfected the formula that made both the original BSC series and its recent, Raina Telgemeier-helmed graphic novel update, so compelling. The series’ fresh-faced kid cast, led by a brash Sophie Grace as BSC President Kristy Thomas, is bubbly and endearing, while the adult cast (led by a bemused Alicia Silverstone and a painfully goofy Mark Feuerstein, supported by a fussier-than-normal Marc Evan Jackson), provides a strong comedic backbone without at all overshadowing the kids. Most importantly, though, Shukert and Aniello have nailed the most critical element: The dynamics within, and mechanics of, the Baby-Sitters Club, itself—from the girls’ differing levels of friendship, to their relationships with their baby-sitting charges, to (crucially) all the reasons, even at this particularly app-infested moment in time, they would all still choose to gather bi-weekly around a landline phone to book their baby-sitting clients. With so much uncertainty facing us in the TV landscape in the months (and maybe even years) ahead, I am so glad we at least all have BSC to look forward to loving together this July. —Alexis Gunderson
Premiere Date: July 12
Looking to fill its Power vacuum (see what I did there?), Starz is bringing us P-Valley, a drama that examines the dynamics of a Mississippi Delta-set strip club. But, with women at the helm—Katori Hall, who based the series on her play “Pussy Valley,” is the series’ showrunner, and Karena Evans directs the premiere—the show seems less exploitative and more revealing in the right ways (think Hustlers vibes). Described as “trap music meets film noir,” a press release for the series also name drops the Piggly Wiggly, which means I am all in on what could be the next great southern gothic series. —Allison Keene
Network: NBC Universal
The streaming wars are in no need of another competitor—not least one that spent a whole day live-streaming a static shot of a hen (not a peahen) sitting next to an egg (not a peacock egg!) in a pile of hay, only to have a fully grown male peacock (!) hatch forth, fly to a grand piano in the middle of a barn (!!), and launch into a rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” (!!!)—but it’s 2020, and that’s where the streaming scene’s at.
That said, while …other… recent streaming services might have found it challenging to establish a competitive audience amidst the noise of the rest of the streaming landscape and the chaos of global quarantine, Peacock’s upcoming launch is likely to find solid ground pretty quickly, as it will bring with it both a treasure trove of beloved NBC Universal properties, new and old (including, presumably, The Good Place’s impossible-to-find final season), as well as a blessedly short slate of scripted originals that range from intriguing novelty (Brave New World; Angelyne) to smart fan-service (Punky Brewster; the next Psych movie; A.P. Biology’s resurrection). We can’t hope for all of it to be great, but I’d still bet money on the fact that enough of it will be good that it will be worth tuning in for. —Alexis Gunderson
Premiere Date: August
Lovecraft Country is one of those series I’m fervently looking forward to, but simultaneously trying to avoid any information about. It’s a case of trusting the creative instincts of the people involved, from executive producer Jordan Peele to creator Misha Green, who likewise created Underground. I haven’t read the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, but there’s something about this particular premise—fusing together the palpable and still-relevant horrors of the Jim Crow-era South of the 1950s with a more overt strand of Lovecraftian cosmic horror—that is irresistible to someone like myself, who is steeped in the Lovecraft-inspired horror cinema of the 1980s. Never before have we seen that style of cosmic horror applied to this particular era or perspective, least of all by Lovecraft himself, who was unfortunately a racist by all accounts. It seems almost fitting that his ideas be used in such a way, therefore, bringing to life both human and inhuman monsters for our cast of black performers to overcome. I have no idea how the literal, tentacled monsters enter this particular story or interact with the plot, but I can’t wait to find out. I’ll continue keeping news about Lovecraft Country at arm’s length, fully expecting it to thoroughly devastate me (and the rest of its viewership) when it arrives in August. Nothing would make me happier than finding it to be exactly as weird and disturbing as I imagine it to be. —Jim Vorel
Premiere Date: Summer
Do you want to see Katherine Langford, the bad liberal daughter from Knives Out, go on an Arthurian adventure with Barry’s Devon Terrell as the Once and Future King? The Lady of the Lake origin story Cursed may offer what you’re after. Based on the book by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller (yes, that Frank Miller), Cursed looks to scratch a more serious swords-and-sorcery itch than the streamer’s other viral fantasy entry earlier this year, The Witcher. If it’s good, it’ll be a wonderful piece of YA mythology. If it’s bad, there’s no end to the Monty Python jokes we can tell. There’s no losing here.—Jacob Oller
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